So glad you’ve joined us to talk about Obey. We hope you’ve grabbed some sisters to talk with and have a journal to write thoughts in. It’s time to begin!
If we would have God’s blessings upon us we must begin to obey!
—AW Tozer, Evenings with Tozer
Faith ultimately comes down to obedience. Doing what God says.
Trust and Obey
The struggle to trust and obey has been an issue since the very beginning. In the garden, Adam and Eve failed to trust God and therefore were deceived by the serpent.
Read Genesis 3:1-6
How did the serpent cause Adam and Eve to distrust God?
They made them question whether He was telling the truth or not. The serpent also made God look like a liar who was trying to manipulate them. Keep them from knowing all He knows.
What was the result?
They disobeyed God.
If we read the rest of the story we see their eyes were opened to sin and shame. They hid from each other and from God. And there were many consequences for their sin. Women ended up with labor pains as well as men in trying to grow crops. The open relationship between man and wife became a struggle. Life became hard.
I recently had an epiphany regarding the story of the Fall, which made me think we take this part of our history way too lightly. It’s not just a story of how sin entered into the world, it’s a lesson in obedience.
Adam and Eve let the serpent plant doubt in their minds regarding the truth about God, and these were two individuals who probably knew God better than anyone ever has. They had nothing between them and their relationship with God. They walked with Him and talked with Him like a real person in their midst. It was all good. But even they were susceptible to the lies of the enemy. So the first thing we learn from their failure to obey is: Trust God alone. That was the heart of our memory verse for our week’s study on Trust. Do we remember it? — Let’s recite it together:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.
God alone is worthy of our trust, certainly not our own reason and understanding, when it comes to deciding who to obey.
The next thing we learn are the consequences of disobedience. Adam and Eve had one rule to obey. Just one. And Eve’s decision to trust her own judgment sent the whole world to hell in a handbasket. One bad decision. The same is true for us. Every person lives Adam and Eve’s story over and over again: I just tried it “once”… yet the consequences turn our personal worlds into a living hell. I have my stories of failure, times I said I never would, but then I did… I’ve seen others struggling in a hell of their own making because they were curious.
Obedience is serious business. Not only does God show up with blessings when we obey, but He delivers the consequences of disobedience too. And we must take responsibility for sending our own world to hell in a handbasket when we disobey Him.
What keeps us from trusting and obeying God?
There are probably two primary factors preventing us from trusting obedience. Both are multifaceted: Fear and Pride.
- Fear of man.
- Fear of failure.
- Fear of loss.
- In our own understanding and reason—intelligence.
- In our own strengths and abilities.
- In our knowledge.
- In our self-righteousness.
- In our appearance.
Just this week I experienced these same two issues when it comes to obedience. I’ve been in the midst of a battle lately. Last Tuesday, just before our session, I came to the end of myself in the situation. I threw my spiritual hands up and asked God to show me what to do. I asked Him to provide wisdom, encouragement and instruction. Wisdom came in the form of three internet articles speaking directly to my situation. God provided encouragement through a friend who came into the shop to have a picture framed. I praised God for answering my prayer, and then came the instruction.
God reminded me of how Joshua fought the battle of Jericho. How his people walked around the city each day. This too was a battle and I needed to walk. My pride and fear are rising up just sharing this with you now. Each morning I rise a bit early and begin walking around my house praying as I go. I guess it wouldn’t be that big of a deal if no one was home to see me, if everyone was still in bed and my hubby had left for the office. But, it’s summer and the boys are home and my husband’s office is now in the house, too.
The first morning I began my walk my thoughts bombarded me. What explanation will I give for walking circles around the house? How will I explain this? Even though my husband is somewhat used to my crazy, this might just be over the top. The enemy continued to taunt me. You have lost your mind. Do you really think God is going to do something because you are willing to walk around your house? You could just pray from your nice comfy chair. I imagined my husband sitting in his chair facing the window, he would see me pass by time and time again. Pride screamed, “You don’t have to do it this way!” Fear yelled, “What will others think!”
Obedience is a battlefield and there are many weapons the enemy will use against us. Pride and fear are weapons of nuclear destruction. I believe God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. I believe He called Joshua to a strange way to battle. I believe He called me to do the same in this circumstance. As of this morning… I’m still walking!
Pride and fear are both sins that first take root in our mind. Thinking too highly of ourselves or putting too much weight on what others think. Which brings us to the battlefield.
The Battlefield of Obedience
The battleground for our obedience takes place in our mind. What do we believe? Who do we trust? These are the questions we consider before deciding to obey or not.
Let’s consider our memory verse for this week. Recite or write the Obey memory verse.
Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin which leads to death, or obedience which leads to righteousness? Romans 6:16
What is this verse telling us?
- First of all, we are slaves. We were created to obey. So no matter who we obey, the world (and this includes yourself) or God, we are slaves.
- Second, we have a choice over who our master will be. Either sin or God. Both have clear outcomes. Death or life. Is it a hard choice?
Sunday our preacher shared a message on how sin enslaves us, keeps us chained. He talked about chains being a symbol of slavery. He even had a large chain as an example. He went so far as to say chains represent authority. The one chained is in submission to the one who chains. His entire message pointed us to the power of Christ to break those chains in our lives. And all the time I’m thinking… I want to be chained to Jesus… by Jesus. I want to come under His authority, obey His commands, live a life submitted to Him. I don’t want to live a life free from chains. I just want to be chained to Him.
Have you considered yourself a slave? Why or why not?
How does the truth of being a slave affect your attitude toward obedience?
The Greek word translated as present in Romans 6:16 means “to make something available to someone without necessarily involving actual change of ownership” (Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament based on Semantic Domains/Louw-Nida). This implies we can still belong to Christ but make ourselves available to the enemy for his use.
When it comes to your thoughts, who do you present yourself to more often than not?
Closely related to the thought life where we battle, are our motives. Often buried inside our hearts where we don’t even see them.
What motivates you to obey God?
There is a place in my life where God has given me a word, I hesitate to call it a promise, but at the heart of the word is my obedience. If I obey, what I desire will (might) happen.
I’ve struggled with the word and the promise attached to it, because it has not come to pass. My reasoning had been, since I have yet to get what I want then I must not be obeying enough. I must be the stumbling block delaying my desire. I saw myself as a slow learner. This thought process caused me discouragement for years, until He revealed the misconception in my heart.
He said: Obedience is not about getting what you want.
I unconsciously believed I could control the situation through my obedience. He showed me that my obedience does not get me what I want (or think I want). I cannot bend Him to my will or manipulate Him by doing what He says. He alone, in His timing, will bring about what He has promised.
The focus on my own obedience and perceived failures to obey only interfered in my relationship with God. Thinking I’m not good enough for Him to bless. When really the fulfillment of His promise and the changes He wants to bring about in me are up to Him. He alone makes things grow and transform. It’s been very freeing for Him to reveal this hidden flaw in my thinking and has enabled me to wait on Him to bring about His promise.
Out of whack motives cause frustration when it comes to obedience. We see ourselves as failures and God as a hard master who only doles out blessings when we do things perfectly. These are lies the enemy uses to discourage and prevent our obedience. Because the truth is we are not trustworthy in our obedience. That’s why we needed Jesus to come fulfill the law for us through His perfect obedience.
Our sole motive to obey God, should be to build our relationship with Him. The whole work of faith is to pursue Him in relationship, not obedience for the sake of obedience.
Obedience at its purest is about entering into relationship with Him, coming to know Him in and through His Word. Coming to know Him through His continued work in the world. Coming to know His way.
This is the mindset, the attitude, we should have when we approach obedience.
Obedience — Faith in Action
This past week we talked about obedience being evidence of salvation. Jesus said those who believe obey His Word.
But even our failures to obey have the power to increase our faithfulness. The pain of conviction can be a great motivator. He knew when He called whether we would act or not. Each call to obedience is a test for us. So we can know the limits of our own faithfulness.
I’m so grateful for forgiveness. But I’m even more grateful for the conviction of the Holy Spirit. For every one of my failures to obey, I’ve suffer such sadness and humility before Him, I’m moved to an even greater desire to obey Him next time. I believe my failures have done more to ensure my obedience than the times I have obeyed and found Him faithful.
I had a recent revelation on this very thought, considering our failure to obey. He knows before He even presses us to obey, whether we will obey or not. He knows when we will press through and obey, and He knows when we will give in to our flesh. And He continues to ask, continues to bless us with opportunities to obey, because He knows what each failure works in our heart.
The time to worry is when He stops asking us to be a part of His work. Or we no longer feel conviction when we disobey.
We have His written Word to obey, but we also have the Spirit’s voice who speaks to us personally.
Hearing His personal call on our life is closely connected to our thought life because this generally happens in our mind or spirit, it’s not usually audible. The list of faithful Believers in Hebrews 11 heard God’s call and obeyed.
How do you know what thoughts to act on? How do your recognize God’s voice?
It was early on in my walk, as I began discerning the three major voices that vied for attention I could almost feel where they were coming from. And for a time it helped me discern who was who.
If it was my flesh speaking, it seemed to be coming from just behind my forehead. This voice wants to do what I want to do. And is often filled with righteous indignation.
The enemy’s voice came from the base of my skull at the back of my neck. He tries to stir up anger, fear, resentment, ridicule, pride, arrogance… all those lovely things.
But the Spirit’s voice always felt like it flowed upward from my heart. A calm voice. Always in agreement with God’s Word. Usually challenging me to do something my flesh cringes at the thought of.
These days, I’ve practiced discernment long enough I can readily distinguish them from what they say and don’t really have the sense of them speaking from a certain location.
Recognizing God’s voice takes practice. It began in me through the study of His Word. I would be praying about something or for someone and a Scripture would come to mind. As time went by I might just hear the Spirit nudging me to turn to a particular book and chapter, sometimes even a verse. The more I trusted this voice, the more attuned I became to the “still quiet voice” I heard others speak about.
There are times I hear Him now and know that I know. Other times I question it or wonder if it is Him. During the times I wondered, He taught me how to further discern His voice from others. First, does what I hear line up with His Word, His commands, His nature? Second, is there some confirmation about it. Confirmation has come in many ways throughout my life. God has used music, books, devotionals, friends, and even strangers to confirm His voice. Third, I give it time. When God calls me to make a big decision or major change, the call doesn’t change over time. If it is His voice, His will, then He will make a way.
Sometimes the things God calls me to do are timely. They need to happen now. It might be calling a friend… sending a card… speaking to someone you don’t know… providing breakfast for the homeless person on the corner. Acting on these thoughts teaches me to trust His voice in both the short and long term circumstances. The more I practice obedience, the clearer His voice becomes.
Discerning His voice, His Spirit, is crucial to our obedience. We need to let Him direct us, guide us, and lead us in all He calls us to do.
Obedience is not always obedience. Obedience our way is disobedience.
- Genesis 15:1-6, 16:1-12
- 1Chronicles 13:1-11
- Matthew 7:21-23
What do we see in these verses?
In the story of Abram and Sarai we see disobedience in trying to make God’s promise come to pass their way. Instead of waiting on God, Sarai came up with a plan. It resulted in the birth of Ishmael whose descendants are the Arabs. The consequences of Abram’s disobedience effect the world today. We do not want to birth any Ishmaels by being impatient and moving things along in the way we think best.
In the story of moving the ark back to Jerusalem, the people’s hearts were in the right place but they did not do things God’s way. He had given them very specific instructions in the law for moving the ark, but apparently they either mislaid the law or neglected to consult it when making plans. Doing things their way resulted in the death of one of the men transporting the ark. And they failed to get it where they were going.
In Matthew 7, Jesus tells us not everyone who calls Him Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven. This is the direct result of not pursuing obedience as a relationship with God, but being motivated by the allure of blessings through acts of obedience. Those who will not be allowed in His Kingdom never really knew Jesus or His ways. They seem to have done things their way for their glory. Jesus calls these people workers of lawlessness.
When have you attempted to obey God’s Word your way? How did that work out for you?
Doing things our way, not trusting God, living with unbelief, and listening to lies often leads us into very deep pits. Some pits are not of our own making. Sometimes other people throw us into pits by sinning against us, but we can make them deeper depending on how we respond.
I’ve often wondered why He allows us to end up in such deep pits. Especially having been in one myself and fought hard to get out.
Well, I wonder no more. He blessed me with a revelation regarding pits this week. Believe it or not, our pits are the beginning of a foundation for faith.
Are you familiar with the construction of foundations or footings? Most building foundations begin with a deep hole, a pit. In this pit the builder places rebar and concrete to allow for a firm foundation.
This same concept can be carried over into the forming of our spiritual foundation. Once we recognize the pit we are in, cry out to Him for help, and respond with trusting obedience when He answers, we fill that pit of sin, unbelief, and lies with faith. Faith in Jesus — the Rock.
When we fill the pit to the point of freedom we are left standing on a deep firm foundation of faith, trust, and truth. We become unshakable.
God allows pits so we can fill them with faith in Him. Because clearly whatever we were standing on before was sand and needed to be removed. Deep pits make for the laying down of firm foundations when we let Jesus fill them with faith.
Obedience in action builds our relationship with God and increases our faith in Him.
Read Matthew 11:28-30 out loud, if you are in a place to do so. (It’s just below…)
“… Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” —Matthew 11:38-30
Who is invited?
All who labor and are heavy laden… Those who are tired from working. Burdened.
What does Jesus offer?
Rest. Teaching. An easy and light burden.
One sign of whether we are obeying His way or our way is how we feel. Is it too heavy? Are we getting burned out?
He promises (and He cannot lie) that the work He calls us to do with Him, under His yoke, is easy, light, and restful for our souls.
Have you experienced burn-out in ministry? in serving the church? in serving others?
Were you doing things your way or His way?
I may step on some toes, but I truly believe, because He says so, that when Believers serve as He calls us to, we will not get burned out.
I’m not saying it won’t be hard. Because writing this study has been hard. But it has also stretched my faith to a new level. That’s part of what coming under His yoke does for us. Stretches us. As all teaching does.
But I’m not about ready to quit. The whole process has actually energized me in some ways. I’ve also experienced doing things He’s called me to that I never would have been able to do on my own, for long periods of time without quitting, growing weary, or feeling burdened. Twelve years of leading a weekly prayer group. Writing six days a week on a blog for five years. Leading a Sunday School class through the Bible in three years. I’m not sharing with you to boast. I’m telling you as a witness to the fact that His burden is easy, light, restful, joyful, satisfying, and fulfilling when you do it with Him, His way. You can do with Him, what you would never be able to do on your own.
I am serving in my twentieth year as a staff person at my church. I’ve been the Education director and now deal primarily with children. I’ve served under seven pastors and with many other staff members. There were times I thought I might be burned out, and too tired to keep going. It hasn’t happened in a long time. As long as I am focused on Him and the vision He has given for this ministry, I wake up each day excited to serve. When I let go and trust His way, He gives me strength, energy, vigor. When I’m feeling a bit frustrated, like the weight is too heavy to bear I remind myself, “If God wants it for His church, He will work through or around whatever He needs to, in order to accomplish His will.” Obedience is the willingness to allow God to work through you without trying to do it on your own.
When we obey our way, sometimes we party crash someone else’s invite.
What entices us to serve where God is not calling us to?
- Pressure from others.
Can you think of ways you could be hurting the church by “disobediently” obeying?
- Preventing someone from fulfilling their call because you are doing it.
- Potential for bitterness and resentment to take hold.
- Weariness and complaining.
- Untimely ministry (in other words He may be calling us to do this, but the timing is not right).
Pride has led me to do good ministry in the wrong way… at the wrong time… and at times all by myself. I have experienced a huge paradigm shift when it comes to serving as a leader in the church. My primary focus is to allow space for God’s people to serve how they are called… when they are called. When I laid my pride down, my way of doing things, my expectations and allowed God’s children to use their gifts and talents as He called them. The growth has been exponential.
When we receive an invitation, we generally respect the host or hostess and their way of doing things. We need to do the same when we say Yes to Jesus.
Remember, the invitation to obey is ultimately so we can get to know Jesus better and see Him at work in and around us.
Where have you seen Him show up by saying Yes to His invitation to obey?
Can you think of opportunities you might have missed?
If you’re with sisters, we are not asking you to talk about these now, unless He presses you to. But as He brings things to mind, take time to specifically ask for forgiveness. Ask Him to use those missed opportunities to increase your desire to not miss another. Let conviction do its work.
Every time we miss on opportunity to obey, we’ve missed an opportunity to love Jesus.
Because obedience is an act of love.
An Act of Love
God receives obedience to His commands as love. Obedient trusting faith demonstrates our love for Him.
Equating obedience with love. Does this seem reasonable to you? or does it seem manipulative in some way? Explain.
When it comes to loving God with obedience, rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 10. 1 being no love/obedience, 10 being perfect love/obedience.
You don’t have to share your answer out loud or even write it down. Just think about it for a moment.
What would need to change in you to move up that scale?
The more we trust God, the more willingly we obey. When we recognize what His obedient love has done for us, we are swept away by His love and come to a place where we obey because we love Him.
Understanding obedience as an act of love, helps us see our opportunities to obey as love offerings.
Read: Leviticus 9:24
What does it mean to place a gift on His altar?
Put it down and back away. Leave it there.
What does He do with it?
He consumes it.
Do we get to take it back after we lay it down?
Often after an act of obedience, one we were so sure He was calling us to in the moment, we begin to struggle with doubt. Was that really what I was supposed to do? Was that Him or me I heard? We analyze the outcome, especially if things didn’t turn out quite how we expected. We critique our actions. See where we could have done it differently. But in the end, it really doesn’t matter because we can’t take it back.
The act of obedience cannot be recovered. It is poured out like water on the ground. A lamb slain on the altar.
Obedience is a love offering placed on His altar.
When we act by faith and obey the call of His Still Small Voice, we need to trust. Trust Him with the outcome. Trust Him with the gift we’ve offered. Because it’s not about us. It’s about Him. Us doing what He says and letting Him do with it what He will.
If we don’t freely lay down our acts of obedience on the altar, doubt and fear can keep us from being obedient the next time. Laying it down is far preferable than finding ourselves standing in regret. Holding the still full jar. Hearing the lamb bleat at our heels. Facing opportunities missed.
Read Leviticus 9:24 again. What should our proper response be to placing a love offering on His altar?
Awe. Reverence. Wonder. Amazement that He included us in His work. That He found a use for us in His Kingdom. The Hebrew translated as simply shout in some versions implies a joyful cry of praise and exultation (Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon). So joy is also a proper response for laying down our loving acts of obedience on His altar.
Seeing obedience as God’s love language moves us right into our final week of study: Love.
Father God, open our hearts to Your heart when it comes to obedience. Fill us with trust and love for You. May we begin to walk by faith in a way that fuels our love for You.
Have a great week, sisters.